On April 21st 2011, my second daughter came home. Unlike the other two who arrived via a hospital maternity ward, all slimy and yelling, this little princess arrived in a pretty olive green party dress, a solemn look on her three year old face and the glimmer of tears in her beautiful eyes. Even today, five years later, I remember that look and it still makes my heart swell with emotion. What was going through her mind as she left the children’s home, with the little friends she had known all her life running after the car and waving goodbye?
Those un-shed tears would soon pour down her face many, many times thereafter. Yes, I had read and studied about what to expect. I had gone through several sessions with the counsellors from the organisation running the children’s home. I had done the required number of bonding visits. I was a willing and eager adoptive parent, excited about having this longed for child in my home after a long process of applications, inspections, recommendations. I shopped, I furnished, I painted, I prepared.
It was tough. The adjustment period was not a joke and there are many times I wondered if I had made a mistake. I often called the counsellor in near tears, frustration and bewilderment driving my questions about this and that behaviour. My princess had grown up with kids rescued off the streets, and her language and attitude bore the evidence. Her temper boiled over in a flash and she could cry for hours on end. Not only would she hit her (much older and bigger) sister but she would also kick me, her mum. The revolving door of nannies would quickly lose their cool at her tongue lashings. She would scream in terror if she thought she was being left alone anywhere. She refused to eat food she was not familiar with, and you can imagine the limited range of what she was used to. Several times she screamed at me to take her back!
Over time, however, things got easier. I attended plenty of adoptive parent events and training. I prayed a lot, I asked God to give me wisdom, patience and unconditional love. I quickly realised that I would have to be very deliberate about loving this child. I focused on the thing that I loved most about her, her very high sense of self esteem. For example, any attempt to make her miss school, however ill she was, would be met with refusal. “But teacher will not be happy if I do not go to class! She will miss me!” I learned about her so-called “love language” – while my older daughter will get excited by pizza and a cool restaurant, her sister loves beautiful clothes and shiny shopping malls. I repeated over and over again how I was so lucky that God had helped me to find her, after searching for so long. How she would beam!
This Princess aka Small daughter is now 8 years old. Can I say that the bonding process has been successful? Yes I can! Our love for each other is undeniable. Even though I have gone through every single mum nightmare possible: no income, nursery boarding school, abusive nannies, long illness, lack of school fees, epic sibling clashes, etc., these circumstances only served to strengthen our bond. During the time I was confined at home by a painful, high risk pregnancy, I had to resign my job, and could no longer afford a house-help (or even pay my bills). I found the best boarding school available and swallowed my “bad-mother” tears. I will never forget the phone call I received from the school matron soon after. No, it was not about Small daughter crying for her mum. Instead I heard, “Mummy, are you in pain? Please eat something. Did anyone come to visit you today? I don’t want you to be alone.”
I treasure all my children and they have been the manifestation of infinite blessings in my life, but this child of my heart is a true gift from God.